On paper, Michael Page dominated the ULTIMATE Super Late Model Series Southeast Region 2019 season opener, setting fast time in qualifying and leading all 40 laps of the feature race at North Georgia Speedway.
In reality, the win was anything but easy. On a racy 1/3-mile bullring, Page held off Jason Hiett while negotiating lapped traffic to secure the victory.
“It was fun. The track was changing every lap. It was different,” Page said after the race. “Jason said the same thing. It wasn’t a one-groove train race. It was actually fun. I hadn’t had fun in a long time, but that was fun.”
In victory lane, Page described the challenge presented by the track and the competition.
“The grooves were changing about every other lap,” Page told Speed51. “I was running that thing for everything it had. We’d get to lapped traffic, and they were trying to figure out where to go and I didn’t know where they were going. I knew if I chose the wrong spot, Jason was going to get me. I just tried to be smart, go as fast as I could and get by them.”
Page knew the key to negotiating the traffic would be decisive action, as any hesitation would bring Hiett to the point.
“You’ve just got to go,” Page explained. “You don’t want to run over anyone, they’re not doing anything wrong, but you’ve just got to go by them and go by them quick. Whatever you do, you’ve got to do it quick. You can’t think about it too much. If you think about it, it’s too late.”
Hiett felt he only had one shot at Page over the course of the 40-lap feature, which Page successfully defended.
“I don’t know if I could have done anything different,” Hiett said. “Just had to fire off on the start. The track was real momentum. We got up there one time and [Page] kinda slowed us down. He moved up and stopped our momentum. The lapped traffic just didn’t work our way. All in all, a good race. We were competitive with him.”
Brandon Overton rounded out the podium, finishing third in Joey Coulter’s Rum Runner Racing entry. For Overton, the transition process continues after signing on for the ride for the 2019 season.
“It’s definitely a learning curve,” Overton admitted. “I haven’t really hit on anything that I’m comfortable with. We’ve just got to race. That’s the biggest thing. We’ve just got to race everything, build us a notebook.”
Shane Clanton charged through the field during the 40-lap feature, starting outside the top 10 after transferring from the first B-Main and racing to a fourth-place finish. Clanton felt he had a car to compete for the win, and simply ran out of time.
“I really think I needed more laps,” Clanton said. “It seemed like once my tires got a little hotter I could get going. We were pretty good at the end of the race. Hopefully we can build momentum off this.”
Defending series champion Zack Mitchell finished 10th in the season opener, struggling to move forward after a poor qualifying effort.
“Just qualifying. That was key tonight,” Mitchell said. “The race track was real racy, and we had a good car in the feature. We just didn’t qualify good. I don’t know what it was. We missed a few things. We learned some stuff and I feel like next time we’re back here, we’ll be good.”
The ULTIMATE Super Late Model Series Southeast Region returns to action on March 23 at County Line Raceway in Elm City, North Carolina.
Race fans who missed Saturday’s action can watch full highlights from the event now on the Speed51 Network, the official video home of the ULTIMATE Super Late Model Series.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
ULTIMATE Super Late Model Series Southeast Unofficial Results
North Georgia Speedway – Chatsworth, Georgia
March 2, 2019